There are many plants that could, in theory, be used as a source of biofuel – a natural renewable fuel with the potential to replace some of the fossil fuels we currently depend on.
But extracting this biofuel from plant matter can be difficult, expensive and inefficient – making the biofuel too expensive to be a realistic option.
What we need is enzymes to do the job for us, extracting and breaking down the plant cellulose into useful biofuel. And one good place to look might be the microorganisms and fungi that already do a similar job in nature.
If we can find and identify microorganisms that produce cellulose degrading enzymes as a normal part of their makeup, the process of turning plant matter into fuel may be simplified and made more affordable.
That is why
These fungi, in particular, are known for their role in decomposing and recycling cellulose biomass – and that makes them a good place to look for enzymes called cellulases that help breakdown cellulose.
Mangroves host many types of fungi, but very little is known about cellulolytic fungi from mangroves in the
The mangrove sediments of
Salt-tolerance is of particular interest for cellulase screening, as they could help us extract biofuel from salt-water loving plants. Halophytes, as such plants are called, could easily be cultivated in the
So far, we have isolated 15 morphologically different types of filamentous fungi – 10 of which were cultured to purity.
Most of those belong to a group that is known to tolerate up to four times the normal salt concentration of sea water. We are now working on characterising and screening their secreted proteins for cellulase activity.
It is our hope that through this research we can identify fungi that have evolved in the
These biofuels can be used in place of many forms of fossil fuels to help
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